The Master and Margarita is split into three different, yet intertwined, stories. There are events in Moscow, including the adventures of satanic visitors, events concerning the crucifixion of Yeshua Ha-Notsri or Jesus Christ, in first-century Yershalaim, and the love story of the Master and Margarita. All three stories are told from Wednesday until the night between Saturday and Sunday of the Holy Week.
Mikhail Alexandrovitch Berlioz, an “important literary personality” as chairman of the board of one of the major literary associations, called MASSOLIT, and Ivan Nikolayevitch Ponyryov, a poet who wrote under the pseudonym of Bezdomny, which means “Homeless”, meet each other at the Patriarch’s Ponds to discuss a poem that Ivan had to write for Berlioz. Berlioz had wanted Ivan to rewrite the poem because he thought that the poem presented the Jesus character way too realistic. He explains why he believes that Jesus never existed, while he teaches Ivan a lesson in religion history. After a while Berlioz is interrupted by a mysterious man, Professor Woland, who ensures him that Jesus really existed. When Berlioz protests, Woland starts to tell the story of Pontius Pilate, without forgetting to tell Berlioz that his head would be cut off by a Komsomol girl before the evening of the same day.
The story shifts to Yershalaim (Jerusalem), where Pilate is hearing the case of Yeshua Ha-Notsri (Jesus of Nazareth). Yeshua is accused of inciting the people to burn down the temple and to resist to the emperor Tiberius. Pilate has to judge on him, and Yeshua is sentenced to death.
Back in Moscow Berlioz is indeed decapitated while he was leaving Patriarch’s Ponds. He slipped away over spilt sunflower oil and was thrown on to the rails of a tram-car. Ivan remembers the prediction of the strange professor and tries to follow Woland and his weird companions – the “choirmaster” Korovyev
and the giant black cat Behemoth through the streets of Moscow, without results. During this chase via Spiridanovka, the Nikitsky Gate, Kropotkin street and Ostozhenkastreet he raises hell in an apartment and ends up at the “the granite steps of the Moscow River amphitheatre”, but the threesome has disappeared. He takes off his clothes to search in the water, but when he gives up his attempts he finds out that his clothes have been stolen. Only a pair of striped drawers and a torn Tolstoy blouse, have been left..
For some unexplicable reason Ivan thinks that the professor must be at Griboedov’s, MASSOLIT’s homebase. In a not unnoticed way – because of his underwear – he runs to that place. He tries to give a logical explanation to the writers present for his strange dress by telling the story of the day but he gets tied up and transported to the psychiatric hospital of doctor Stravinski.
Styopa Likhodeev, Berlioz’s roommate in apartment 50 of a building in Sadovayastreet, and director of the Variety Theatre, had come to his senses that morning at home and sees Woland waiting for him. Number 50 was called the “evil apartment” because former tenants disappeared mysteriously.
Woland reminds Likhodeyev that he had promised him to organise seven performances of black magic in his theatre. Likhodeyev doesn’t recall such agreement. But Woland shows him a contract with his signature; it seems that Woland is manipulating the situation but Likhodeyev is bounded by the agreement.